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Peter Baklinski

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200 youths write to Youth Synod: We don’t want to ‘shape’ Church, we want Church to shape us

Peter Baklinski

DARLINGTON, New South Wales, Australia, October 18, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Over 200 young Catholics in Australia have signed a letter to members of the Vatican-run Youth Synod to ask that the Church give them a "reliable moral compass" by forming them in the unchanging "truth" of the Catholic faith. 

Responding to a train of Synodal thought that young people should shape the Church, these members and alumni of Australian Catholic Students Association have declared that they cannot and do not want to do so. 

“The young do not want to shape the Church before the Church can form us. The world is confused. And in this confusion, the young have nothing to grasp. We want the Synod Fathers to remind the world that God will only deliver us when we cling to Him in love,”  wrote their president, Christopher Wilks, on their behalf. [Full letter embedded below.]

"We need a reliable moral compass. For this, the young need to be well-formed in the truth. We cannot shape the Church when we are not formed. Formless minds will manifest a shapeless Church, constantly evading the truth," he added. 

Conscience has no substance without the Church

Wilks drew upon St. John Henry Newman to explain the young people’s need for the Church to properly form their consciences. Newman was an influence on the Second Vatican Council in their teaching on the dignity of the conscience and its need for formation, but he did not rely solely on conscience. 

“... Even Newman saw the risk that ‘conscience’ could be interpreted as any man’s “prerogative to be his own master in all things”, Wilks wrote. 

Conscience has “no substance” without “the Church and everything she offers,” he continued, “divine revelation, tradition, community, and reason itself…”  

Wilks and his co-signers said that they need a “reliable moral compass” and for that, they need to be “well-formed in the truth.” 

"This formation takes a lifetime, a lifetime the young cannot claim.”

The ACSA president pointed out that all Catholics still living are in a process of converting and therefore should not presume to “shape” the multi-generational Church.

“How could we ever presume to shape the Church, which as the Mystical Body of Christ contains within it billions of lifetimes of conversion, the hopes and prayers of all the faithful departed, the wisdom and holiness of the entire Communion of Saints, and the conviction and bravery of an ever-growing army of martyrs?” he asked.

Confusion caused by senior clerics purposefully using ambiguous language

But young Catholics themselves cannot continue their work of conversion when prelates of the Church are being deliberately ambiguous, Wilks argued. 

“... We can’t hope to take shape amidst confusion over issues such as contraception, sexuality, communion for divorcees and non-Catholics, married priests and female ordination,” he wrote.  

“Such confusion is borne from senior prelates purposefully employing ambiguous language when addressing such issues, even in the face of Christ’s teachings, the Church Fathers and the clear dogma of the Church. Such ambiguity is neither charitable nor desired by the youth and needs to be addressed by this Synod.” 

Wilks accused the Synod Fathers of wanting to do away with “rules” and pointed out that the Church’s rules lead people to Christ. What is needful is for the Church to explain “how and why this is.”    

“When the Church eschews the truth for policy-speak, young people are left with only superficial banalities to express their beliefs,” he wrote. “Deliberately unclear words are, ironically, relied on and repeated with rigidity.”

The young letter-writer said that the Church should not discourage the young from following her rules “in love” and her priests from teaching them.

Beauty of churches should be rays of light

He then made a plea for such traditional Catholic practises and arts as pilgrimages, confession, devotions, adoration, sacred art, music and beautiful architecture. 

“The world can be an ugly place, and the outward beauty of our churches should be rays of light in our communities, particularly in the lives of the poor.”

In order to ensure that Catholic liturgies are both worthy and welcoming, the young Australians recommend that the Fathers promote the use of the Divine Office among the laity. 

“This would complement the increasingly popular and fruitful practice of Eucharistic adoration in parishes and university chaplaincies.” 

As an example of the fact that young people are looking for “meaning beyond flattery”, Wilks cited the popularity of Dr. Jordan Peterson who, even as an agnostic, invites young people to “pick up your cross.” 

The young Australians’ letter follows letters from young American priests and young people in Scotland pleading for clear, orthodox teaching. The Scots also asked for reverent worship. 

In addition to these unsolicited presentations, there have also been interventions at the Synod from prelates on the Church’s responsibility to preserve and teach her perennial doctrines. They have included the American Archbishop Charles Chaput  and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah.

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